Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Sir Everard Fawkener, 27 July 1756

To Sir Everard Fawkener3

ALS: The Royal Archives, Windsor Castle4

New York, July 27. 1756

Honourable Sir,

I wrote you a very long Letter by the Harriot, Capt. Bonell, to which I have now little to add. It was in answer to those I had been favour’d with from you.5

Being requested, by a Letter from Mr. Pownall before he left England, to be here at Lord Loudon’s Arrival, I came accordingly about the time he was expected, but waited near 5 Weeks before he arrived, which was not till last Friday.6 I am pleased, however, that I staid so long, as I have had the Satisfaction of several Conferences with his Lordship on American Affairs, and hope I may be able, on my Return, to do him a Piece of Service that he requests of me.7 He seems to me very well fitted for the Charge he has undertaken, and I promise myself the King’s Affairs on this Side will prosper in his Hands. He sail’d yesterday for Albany, and I return home tomorrow.

The publick Papers, which I inclose, contain all the material News. The Provincials under General Winslow,8 are on their March to Lake George, in order to attack Crown Point. They declin’d the Assistance of the Regulars, who therefore only follow them, and take the Posts they leave, to be ready to support them in case of any Accident. The Provincials, it seems, apprehend, that Regulars join’d with them, would claim all the Honour of any Success, and charge them with the Blame of every Miscarriage. They say, that last Year, at Nova Scotia, 2000 New England Men, and not more than 200 Regulars, were join’d in the Taking Beau Sejour; yet it could not be discover’d by the Account sent home by Govr. Lawrence, and publish’d in the London Gazette, that there was a single New England-Man concern’d in the Affair. It is suppos’d by some, that they will now exert themselves to the utmost; and that the Joining to them a Regiment or two of the Regulars, would have discouraged and dispirited them exceedingly, and thereby weaken’d more than it would strengthen them. The general Opinion, however, of the regular Officers, is, that they will be beaten and repuls’d; for they must expect to meet at Crown Point almost the whole Force of Canada. A few Weeks will now determine this Matter.9

The Naval Force of the Enemy on Lake Ontario, is represented as superior to ours; but as we have more Vessels fitting out, and almost ready, ’tis hop’d the Scale will soon turn there in our Favour. The Check the French receiv’d in their Attack on our Battoes, it’s thought will have a good Effect; and discourage them a little in their Scheme of cutting off our Communication with Oswego. It is agreed by all, that Bradstreet and his Battoe-men behav’d very well.1

The late Act of Parliament, that authorizes the Enlisting of bought Servants in America,2 tho’ it directs that the Officers who inlist them, shall pay the Masters the prime Cost of the Servant, deducting for the time he has serv’d a proportional Part of the Sum (which perhaps is the best general Rule that could be fix’d) or return the Servant, the Master paying back the Enlisting Money; will nevertheless intirely destroy the Trade of bringing over Servants to the Colonies, either from the British Islands or Germany. Because no Master for the future can afford to give such a Price for Servants as is sufficient to encourage the Merchants to import them, while the following Inconveniencies and Hardships still remain on the Master, viz.

1. Many of our Servants are purchased young of their Parents, who, coming with large Families, bind some of their Children to Tradesmen and Farmers, in order to raise a Sum to pay the Freights of the whole, and keep themselves free; their Children too being by this Means well provided for, as they are taught some Business with which they may obtain a future Livelihood. Now the last Year or two of such a Servant’s Time is of more Value to the Master than three or four of the first Years; and the Allowance of a Part of the first Cost, in Proportion only to the Time remaining unserv’d, is therefore by no means an adequate Compensation to the Master.

2. When a Man’s Servants are taken from him, he knows not where to find Hands to assist him in cultivating his Land, or carrying on his Business, hired Labourers or Journeymen not being so readily obtain’d here at any time as in England, People chiefly depending on their bought Servants, and in the present Case the Labourers and Journey-men had been before rendered much scarcer by the long-continued Recruitings. Thus many Masters are reduced to the greatest Distress in their Affairs, by a total Stop put to their Business. And where the Business is carried on in different Branches, depending on one another, the Taking of one Servant may render useless several that are left: For instance, Taking the Spinners from a Ropewalk, the other Servants who know not how to spin, tho’ they do not inlist, cannot go on with the Business, and must stand idle. Taking the Compositors from a Printing-House (my own Case) the Servants who are Press men, tho’ left behind, not knowing how to compose, must remain idle. Therefore the Allowance directed by the Act for the Time the Spinner or Compositor had to serve, is by no means a Compensation for the Damage done.

3. If the Officer declines paying the proportional Sum, directed by the Act to be paid, he is to return the Servant, and the Master is to pay back the Inlisting Money. The Servant very probably has spent it in Drink with the Serjeant and his Fellow Recruits, so it must be out of the Master’s Pocket: Then there being no Provision to prevent the Servant’s Inlisting again, he may repeat the Frolick as often as he pleases. If the same Officer should generously refuse (for he is not forbid) to inlist the same Servant twice, another Officer may inlist him, not knowing that he had been inlisted before, and discharged; and so the Master may be continually harass’d with the Expence and Trouble of Recovering his Servant, till he chuses rather to lose him intirely.

Upon the whole I see clearly, that the Consequence will be, the Introduction of Slaves, and thereby weakening the Colonies, and preventing their Increase in White Inhabitants.

How much better would it be to recruit in Britain, Ireland or Germany: For by that means the Colonies would be strengthened!

I write this in Obedience to your Commands that I should give my Opinion freely to you, on Publick Measures relating to America.

I hope Mr. Hunter3 is with you by this Time, and that the Voyage will answer the Expectations of his Friends, in restoring his Health. He sail’d about the 20th of June, in the Anna, Capt. Randolph, from Virginia. He will settle our Accounts with the Office, and inform you of everything relating to it on this Side.

I am, with the greatest Respect, Honourable Sir, Your most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

Honourable Sir Everard Fawkener.

Endorsed: New-York, July the 27: 1756. Mr: Franklin to Sir E: Fr: relating to the Enlisting of bought Servants in America.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3On Fawkener see above, V, 334 n.

4The editors acknowledge the gracious permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to make use of this document from the Royal Archives, Windsor Castle.

5BF’s “long Letter” by the Harriot (neither it nor Fawkener’s letters to BF have been found), which had sailed from New York about July 3, probably responded to charges that he had obstructed the King’s service in America and thus should be deprived of his postal office (see the preceding document, note 8). This letter of the 27th, dealing almost wholly with military affairs, though addressed to Fawkener, was doubtless intended eventually to reach the Duke of Cumberland, captain general of the British army, for whom Fawkener was secretary. A copy of the letter is among Cumberland’s papers. Pargellis, Military Affairs, pp. 184–7.

6Pownall’s letter not found; BF had arrived in New York about June 20; Loudoun on July 23.

7Perhaps a promise of aid in road building or to print the new act of Parliament on recruiting for the King’s service, or more likely, a pledge to secure money from the Assembly appropriated directly for Loudoun’s use. See above, p. 400 n, and below, pp. 486, 502–3.

8John Winslow (1703–1774), member of the Massachusetts General Court, had seen service in the West Indies, Nova Scotia, and Maine, and was at this time in command of over 5000 New England troops gathered for an attack on Crown Point. DAB.

9The proposed Crown Point campaign was frustrated by disputes over precedence between regular and provincial officers, and by the confusion in leadership which found Gen. William Shirley, Col. Daniel Webb, Gen. James Abercromby, and Lord Loudoun successively in command during a period of two months. BF’s obvious sympathy for the provincial troops, shared by Shirley, was disdained by Abercromby and Loudoun, who thought provincials insubordinate, unruly, and incapable of undertaking a campaign against the small but superb army the French had brought to Canada. The dispute led to a bitter exchange of letters between Loudoun and Shirley; see Shirley Corres., II, 499–559. Pargellis, Lord Loudoun, pp. 132–66, is sympathetic to Loudoun, and Gipson, British Empire, VI, 177–211, gives Shirley’s side.

1Col. John Bradstreet (c. 1711–1774), served with distinction, usually commanding provincial troops, in various North American wars, 1744–64. He is best remembered for his capture of Fort Frontenac in August 1758. DAB. Returning from a successful expedition to bring supplies to beleaguered Oswego, Bradstreet and his “Battoe-men” had repulsed an attack by 1200 French and Indians on July 3. News of this engagement, and the intelligence about French forces on Lake Ontario, were in the New-York Mercury, July 19 and 26, 1756; probably among the “publick Papers” which BF sent to Fawkener.

2An Act for the better Recruiting his Majesty’s Forces on the Continent of America, and for the better Regulation of the Army, and preventing of Desertion there. 29 Geo. II, c. 25 (1756). See also above, p. 400 n.

3On the health of William Hunter, BF’s associate as deputy postmaster general, see above, V, 438, and this volume, p. 429.

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